The FDA is expected to issue emergency authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine as soon as Saturday, reports the New York Times. That means "we could see people getting vaccinated Monday, Tuesday," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Friday on Good Morning America. Some 2.9 million doses will be shipped within 24 hours of approval, per the Times. It's welcome news at a difficult time. On Wednesday, the US recorded a record 3,124 COVID-19 deaths, more than the roughly 2,900 that occurred in the 9/11 attacks and the roughly 2,400 deaths that occurred in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, according to John Hopkins University. While Thursday’s count was slightly lower—3,110, per NBC News—CDC Director Robert Redfield says the US is likely to see at least 3,000 deaths "for the next 60 to 90 days," reports the Hill.
"The reality is the vaccine approval this week's not going to really impact that I think to any degree for the next 60 days," says Redfield. He's urging Americans to "double down" on basic precautions, like wearing a face mask. About 72% of Americans wear masks. But some 56,000 lives could be saved if that figure rose to 95%, according to forecasts from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, per CNN. In contrast, vaccinations will only save between 25,200 and 44,500 lives by April, according to the institute. It predicts 500,000 US deaths by that time, up from the current death toll of 292,382, according to John Hopkins. Depressingly, that toll is more than all US deaths recorded on World War II battlefields, per NBC. The Department of Veterans Affairs lists 291,557 "battle deaths" over the course of four years, not including 113,842 "non-theater" deaths. (Read more coronavirus stories.)